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How Do You Photograph Belts And Guitar Straps?

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I must have taken hundreds of pictures of belts and guitar straps but I'm never happy with the results. Can anyone make any suggestions as to the best way to photograph long thin strappy things?

Thanks,

Ray

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Use sexy models, hire someone who knows how to photograph....ROFL

Seriously, don't ask me, I can take 60 pictures of the same thing, and still come up with bupkiss. My daughter can take one shot, and it looks like it's ready for an art museum. I'm looking forward to the responses here, as long as it doesn't involve buying one of them $1000 cameras, or a brain transplant.

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It seems to work best for me if I place long strappy things in a loop. A part of it will get hidden by this arrangement, but if what is hidden is the same as what appears in the parts that show, I don't worry about alternate views. If the hidden part does have something unique to the part that shows in the main view, I make alternate views.

Can you show us an example or two of the ones you've done?

Kate

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Here are some pics of my low end guitar straps and a few belts. As you say, Kate, there doesn't seem much else I can do with 'em.

I have been forced to just show the buckle ends of the belts.

Ray

300-Blackadder.jpg

300-lost-soul-Guitar-Stra.jpg

tooled-belts-300.jpg

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The biggest issue in these photos are glare and lighting/exposure. There needs to be plenty of light on the subject, and the exposure of your camera needs to be set so that all of the subject is light enough to see all the color and detail.

Often, the "auto" exposure features of your camera will not choose the right exposure for the subject if there is a lot of back-lighting from the background. This gives you a photo that is underexposed.

To get rid of the glare, change the angle of the lighting and/or the position of the strap so the light's "hot spot" doesn't bounce off the subject straight back to the camera. It also helps reduce glare if you have a way of diffusing the light from your light source. A soft box (or "light box") is a good solution for that.

Kate

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outside and daylight helps too.

also a more "Nutural" background - I found doing mini work that too much contrast is not good. and something "not shiny"

black is a very hard background color to work with.

and my shooting skills with a digital camera -- SUCK

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Hi Ray,

Here are some pics of my low end guitar straps and a few belts. As you say, Kate, there doesn't seem much else I can do with 'em.

I have been forced to just show the buckle ends of the belts.

Ray

There are four things you need. A decent camera, a decent tripod, a light box, and good software. Almost any modern digital camera will do the job, but you want one with a "programmed autofocus" mode. That allows you better control over flash and exposure without requiring fully manual mode that you only tend to get on high-end cameras. You won't get decent shots in this kind of situation with fully automatic mode. You don't need a cable release or remote, just set the camera to 2 second self-timer so you're not touching it and causing shake when you take the picture. The beauty of using a digital camera for this is that you can take a hundred shots of something and pick the one or two that work.

You don't need a hugely expensive high-end tripod, but don't waste time with cheap flimsy things. The one I have is a decent portable tripod but it isn't stable enough to do long exposures without shaking, even when I'm not touching the camera. You want to avoid using the builtin flash, so your exposure times are going to be longer. If you can get a tripod that allows the camera to be mounted underneath pointing down you'll find that useful for this kind of work.

You can build a light box quite easily. Google has lots of info on them. I made mine out of a 60lt plastic wheelie-crate that I store the paper and lights in when I'm not using it. It's not perfect, but it works pretty well. The major thing is to use 1550nm 'daylight' bulbs in the lights and to play around with the white balance of the pictures. Having a white card somewhere in shot you can crop out later is useful.

Google's picasa app is a good free application for correcting white balance and doing basic edits. You don't need photoshop for basic product photos :)

Here's the light box I use:

lightbox-1.jpglightbox-2.jpg

The major thing I want to change is to make it so I can take photos looking straight down into the box. It's a lot easier to get the object set up in a box like that.

Here are some pictures from it. I'm still getting too-bright highlights on some parts, but it still works a lot better than I could do otherwise.

lightbox-3.jpgscabbard-1jpg.jpgscissorcase.jpg

I keep some matte finish light card stock loosely rolled up in the box to use as backgrounds. You can also use fabric or felt. The key is not to use anything shiny and to have it be a smooth curve from the top-rear corner of the box to the front-bottom corner of the box so there aren't any sharp corners in the background of the shot.

If you want any more info, please ask. I'm not an expert on these but I've managed to make it work Ok.

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Thanks for the advice folks - It might help if I tell you the camera kit I own:

Digital Cameras : Canon Ixus 980 IS and Canon Ixus 500 neither seem to work well as manual cameras - and I probably wouldn't know how to operate them anyway!

I have a light tent (the 3ft square collapsible kind) but obviously I have never sorted out how to use it properly.

I have two daylight bulbs in anglepoise style lamps in the workroom that were purchased to use with the light tent.

I have a Benbo Trekker tripod.

I don't have any spare money for kit so I'll probably have to do the best I can with the stuff I already have.

Ray

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Hi Ray,

Sorry if I'm telling you stuff you already know. It's difficult to figure out what someone else knows about stuff just from the forum, but if I'm teaching you to suck eggs as they say over here, at least this might be useful to other readers.

That kit should be all good. You might need another lamp if you want to avoid shadows. I found with two I couldn't quite get things well lit enough. The ixus 980 is a good camera, and it had a Program AE mode which is good.

The biggest thing you'll want to do is turn the camera flash off and set it to the lowest ISO setting it'll do (80 or 100, no higher than 200). If you have issues with depth of field, set the camera to aperture priority mode and crank it down to f2.8 or so. From the photos you sent before it looks like either you have the flash on or you're lighting the belts from the same direction as the camera, which means you'll get bad reflections and bright spots on the shiny bits. You want to light the subject with indirect light bounced off the inside of the light box or at least filtered through a diffuser.

These articles are ones I've found useful. Obviously you've already got a light tent so you don't need to build one, but the comments and notes on use are still good:

http://www.studiolighting.net/homemade-light-box-for-product-photography/

http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-make-a-inexpensive-light-tent

http://www.pbase.com/wlhuber/light_box_light_tent

This might be useful if you're having issues with harsh flash highlights:

http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-soften-up-harsh-flash-lighting

http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-make-a-diy-ring-flash-tutorial

This is a good setup too:

http://digital-photography-school.com/cooking-up-a-photograph-in-your-kitchen

Cheers.

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I think your question is how to photograph something long and still show detail. This is how I handled the last one, but it relys on photoshop proficiency or some other photo program. This was actually taken

laying on a blanket that I changed to a different background. If I remember correctly the lighting for this was just all of the lights I could turn on in the living room.

morgan-red-6950_2.jpg

I've also been playing with placing item on a turntable, taking a number of shots and making that into an animated gif.

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The technical stuff is very useful so many thanks for that. I also found the way people present their leather goods both interesting and useful. The idea of using two pictures in one is a great idea but I'll leave animated gifs to the experts for now!

Ray

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I currently do my photography with a softbox at about a 45 degree angle, light coming in from the top right (think artificial sun). My backdrop is a natural colored canvas cloth (bought a yard of it for edgework). The best advice I can give, is to find pictures that appeal to you, and ask 'how did they set it up'? What angle is the light coming from? Are they using more than one light source? Is the light hard or soft? (the light in your sample pics is hard...well defined shadows with crisp edges indicates hard lighting). Here's a great website with a LOT of tutorials: http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/category/tutorials/photography-tutorials/

You don't have to have a pro/semi-pro setup to get great pictures (I used to use a point-and-shoot camera for everything...learned product photography that way, but now I use mostly the top end of the semi-pro dslr range). However, it does help once you have the basics down, especially composition. Hope this helps! :)

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I always photograph my belts outside at day light, and use burlap as background. I am not a pro-photographer but I think my photos are okay. Most of times I use my iPhone 5s

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One of most important parts of taking photos of products is to never use flash directly onto the product. Try to bounce the flash off your wall or ceiling if possible. Image below was taken on the floor of my house. I used a flash that I pointed at my ceiling. Set my exposure and took the shot. This allowed for even lighting with no hotspots on your product.

gmVJ0VZ.jpg

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My advice would be to lay the belt in a way that will emphasize the detail. A burlap is nice background for a leather belt. Take the pic outdoors in the morning when the lighting is more overcast or softened by the clouds, yet will cast soft shadows that aren't too contrasty. The idea is to try to emphasize the area that you are most proud of. It may be the stamping, or the burnished edges, or just the thickness etc. Lastly and probably most important is to shoot the pic in manual mode at the widest aperture possible (2.8-3.5). This will blur the background and put the point of focus on the beautiful work that you are proud of.

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No fancy photography here, but as I just photographed a belt not an hour ago, I thought I would post this to show a way that looks natural to me.  35 to 50 mm focal length at f 5.6 works well to isolate the subject while not making the depth of focus too narrow.  

NKN_8702.jpg

Edited by CraftyNick

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I struggle with this as well, but have found coiling the belt to be the most attractive option:

IMG_20160904_150350.jpg

 

Took that on my phone, no editing apart from cropping. Just a sheet of white cardboard on the bed with some morning light. Turned out well enough for my purposes. I do have a light tent, flashes, DSLR, etc however when it is just to upload to a site where my photo will be compressed and resized anyway, I have found it is not worth the trouble.

When taking reference photos for myself, yes, I go to the extra effort.

Updating my social media, which is done often and needs to be quick, phone and cardboard suffices.

Edited by Kristy

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Light is the key (not to be confused with a key light lol)

 i just use my conservatory, nice soft lighting, or hang a white sheet over a window.

Also on an android phone the app snapseed is really great for post processing.

108201613845.jpg.

 

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